This week, Coach Nikon, emailed myself and Pigeon to see if we were interested in doing 19 miles or so on the Western States Trail. I jumped at the chance (well, first I asked Vans if I could disappear on Saturday knowing it would be a long day and THEN I jumped). He was planning a point to point starting at Foresthill High School and running through Cal 1 and Cal 2 on the Western States Trail ending at Rucky Chucky and then climbing out back up to Drivers Flat where we had parked some cars.
All of that probably seems like jibberish to non Western States people, but really, that section covers miles 62 through 78 of the Western States Course and then you have to add another 3 miles to climb out and back to your car. Roughly, 19 miles total for us.
Knowing I have family obligations, we all agreed to start running at 6:30 am. That meant meeting at 6 am at Drivers Flat, hopping into one car and driving to Foresthill School. In order to get to Drivers Flat, I had to wake up at 4:30 am and then leave at 5 am. I am early bird and generally never mind waking early to get a head start on a run especially if it means being done sooner so as not to infringe too much on my family time. I will tell you, we were done running by 10:30 am and I was home before noon today. Nice!
So I arrived at Drivers Flat and it was still quite dark out. Coach Nikon had arrived shortly before I did and realized, as he was unloading his car, that his big jug of water had leaked . . . all over his passenger seat floor and consequently, his running shoes.
Coach Nikon just laughs it off
That is one of the best things about running with Coach Nikon, he just laughed off the fact that his shoes would be soaking wet at the start. No complaints from this man!
He put on a fashion show for us with his CIM Scarf. Quite the fashionista no?
Pigeon and Miss P arrived shortly after we did and we all piled into Pigeon's car for the trek to Foresthill School. It's a quick drive and were there in no time at all. We hopped out of the car, loaded our packs and took off running down the street.
I always seem to notice Subways wherever I go. When I was dating Vans we probably ate at Subway 5 times a week because he just never knew where else to take a vegetarian. Today, this Subway marked the turning spot to head down the street to the trail head.
Ta-da! Our starting spot!
The first few miles on the trail are rocky and down. Coach Nikon said it best when he told us earlier that it is hard to get a rhythm and good footing on this section. He was totally right. Still a bit stiff, I found that I was moving fairly gingerly down this section watching for rocks and roots because I was petrified of rolling my ankle again.
Eventually we hit a little clearing with the most amazing views.
Down we go
At some point it stopped being so rocky and the trail flattened out ever so slightly. I was still quite aware how far down we were going though, knowing in the back of my head that only meant "up" at some point.
Pigeon on the trail behind me.
Uh-oh, up we go
The pairing worked out well today. Pigeon and myself took up the rear while Miss P and Coach Nikon blazed ahead of us, clearing out the cobwebs.
The entire time you are running the river is to your left. Sometimes you can even hear it. It was nice to know it was there and also nice to know that at some point, we'd reach it and be able to jump in and cool off.
Running with this group is great. I think we're all pretty laid back and want to enjoy the run. We want to get the miles in but we'd much rather laugh while doing it. We had a couple photo shoots like the above photo along the way, laughing every time.
Very quickly (it seemed) we reached Cal 1 which is also known as Dardanelles and is an aid-station on the Western States Course. According to the sign, we were 12.2 miles from Rucky Chucky (our sort of ending spot) and 5 miles from Cal 2, another stopping spot. I felt pretty darn good. I had moments in the beginning where my energy just was not there. I took a Gu and an SCap hoping it would help and it totally did. It was warm and getting warmer but I figured maybe I had been a little dehydrated to start. From that point on, I felt much better.
We even had another photo shoot. Really I think I just surprised them by saying "pose!" Look at Miss P working it in the back! She's a natural and fit right in today with our JCPenny posing selves!
After our little grouping, Miss P and Coach Nikon disappeared again. They seemed to do that a lot, especially on the down hills. I try and save my ankles and quads which usually results in me being way behind everyone else.
Never fear though as Coach Nikon was hiding off to the side in a bear like stance ready to show us the way! Another awesome part of running with Coach N, he runs his pace but always, always makes sure no one is left too far behind. Love and appreciate that.
However, when he climbed down from his perch, we noticed a little something funny about his shoes!
White & Black
Since he had started our run with one soaking wet shoe, it was pretty hilarious noticing that one shoe was completely covered in mud and still wet while his other was quite . . . white.
After laughing about that we kept moving. Pigeon and I were taking up the rear as usual. The next portion of the trail was another rocky descent. Not my favorite. Pigeon flew down this section super fast and I think later paid for that when her back really started to seize up and cause her some pain.
Ugh, more downhill!
We finally came to a clearing to find Coach Nikon and Miss P waiting. We had made it to Cal 2!
Here is where Pigeon realized just how much pain she was in and Coach Nikon flew to her rescue!
A little elbow grease!
While the massage parlor was in business, I busted out my camera and made Miss P work it!
After our little fun session was over we started running again. We ran until a tree fell and blocked our path. Coach Nikon decided to try and make it a little easier to run over . . .
Squash that tree!
While Miss P decided that it would be better if she just moved the tree entirely.
She not only models, she moves trees!
Once our obstacle was out of the way (Thanks Miss P) we were running again.
Until we stopped because Coach Nikon thought he saw an animal . . . for the record, he did although I never saw it. :-)
I was told the next spot we would reach was called Six Minute Hill . . . and that it was a doozy.
Six Minute Hill
Six Minute Hill is straight up. The trail basically "Ts" into it and the only way out is up. Straight up. It is apparently called Six Minute Hill because "fast runners" can run it in 6 minutes. Yeah, no way. Instead, we used it a photo studio.
Behind the scenes of a JC Penny shoot.
As we were climbing this monstrous hill, I heard laughing. Miss P and Coach Nikon had a blast pointing out to me that we were not alone out here. They had spied some "bird tracks" on the trail!
Headed the same direction we were going. Of course.
Up & in the sun we go!
I am baffled at how anyone can run this in six minutes! We hiked, trotted and hiked the entire way.
Coach Nikon & Miss P even hike faster than us!
Will it ever end!?
It eventually did end (thank goodness) as we came to another clearing. With another sign.
Cal 3, 4.9 miles to Rucky Chucky!
Honestly, even with all these signs and wearing my Garmin, I never once noticed my watch, what mile we were on or how far we had to go. I was totally just enjoying myself on the trail. It was a gorgeous day and I was having a blast.
The river and the trail ahead!
That is where we wanted to be!
Even though it was not boiling out, it was pretty darn hot still considering it was still pretty early in the day. I can't imagine running these trails on a late June evening (when Western States is held) OR in the dark as many of the runners do during that race!
Coach Nikon assured us that river spot was close. I think we all were really looking forward to it!
Finally! Time to get wet!
Coach Nikon was the first one in
Followed by Miss P!
Pigeon going deep
Since Pigeon was so stiff and sore with her back issue, she went deep, shoulder deep in the icy cold water. It may look really green in these photos, but it wasn't green. It wasn't blue but definitely not green. It felt fantastic too!
I went in above my knees but below my waist
After cleaning and cooling off, it was time to climb out of the river and make the 3 mile uphill climb back to our cars.
The climb back up was pretty brutal. There was very little shade, if any and the terrain was a rocky dirt service road with truck traffic on it. Pigeon and I sort of hiked and climbed our way out. She was hurting and I was content to stay with her at whatever pace she was moving. For me, hills like this are all mental and if my mind is occupied by talking, then the hill doesn't seem so bad.
Coach Nikon and Miss P were gone, far gone. Pigeon and I would trot when we could on the flatter sections but honestly, there were very few flat sections. Eventually, Coach Nikon had reached his car and then came back down to find us. He hiked and ran with us the whole way back. Despite how tired we were climbing, I think we all had smiles and we all agreed it was a great day.
The total distance was about 18.6 miles in about 4 hours and 19 minutes which included our stops, photo shoots and the swim in the river. Like I said earlier, we were done and back at the car by 10:30 am or so and I was home by noon. Awesome!!!
When I arrived home, Vans and the Peanut were no where to be found. Instead, they were off having their own fun . . . at the skateboard park!